Schools across the Lambton-Kent District School Board (LKDSB), the St. Clair Catholic District School Board (SCCDSB) and all other schools boards across Ontario are closed today, Friday, February 21, 2020, due to a province-wide strike being held by the four major teachers unions.
“Nearly 200,000 teachers and education workers will strike in 72 school boards, affecting almost 5,000 schools across the province in protest of the government’s cuts to publicly funded education,” the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) in a joint press release.
LKDSB officials said due to the one-day legal strike action, and the full withdrawal of services, all schools are closed on Friday, February 21, 2020.
“Elementary and secondary schools and programs will reopen to students on Monday, February 24, 2020,” LKDSB officials stated.
SCCDSB officials say all schools in their board will be closed on Friday, as well as on Monday, February 24, 2020, due to rotating strikes announced by OECTA impacting the St. Clair board.
“St. Clair Catholic is committed to the safety of all students and staff in our schools,” Deb Crawford, director of education, stated.
“Therefore, if no settlement is reached and full strike action proceeds, the Board will have no choice but to close all elementary and secondary schools to students on: Friday, February 21, 2020 and Monday, February 24, 2020.”
Crawford added: “We continue to be hopeful that a collective agreement which is fair to all parties can be negotiated at the provincial bargaining table. Should an agreement be reached that results in a cancellation of these scheduled days of action, you will be notified by direct email, Edsby posts, the Labour Relations Update page on the Board website, and our Facebook and Twitter platforms.”
Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, issued a statement on Thursday in response to the strike action by the four teachers’ unions.
“Your child should be in class; they should not be the casualty of union-led escalation,” Lecce stated.
“The focus of union leaders ought to be on negotiating a deal that keeps students in class. Our government will remain squarely focused on providing stability to students who face escalation by teacher unions far too often throughout their educational journey. We have demonstrated this focus on students during the negotiation process, by advancing educational priorities that matter: merit-based hiring, enhanced investments in student priorities and special education over union demands for more generous wages and benefits and committed – in writing – to protecting all-day kindergarten.”
Lecce said parents are losing patience with the union-caused disruption in their lives, the inconsistency in their children’s education, and the financial impact of scrambling for alternate care.
“That is why we will continue to stand with parents and offer financial assistance through the Support for Parents initiative, which is providing financial support directly in the pockets of working parents,” the Minister said.
“While union leaders are continuing to organize further disruption, our government remains focused on getting deals that ensure students are learning each and every day.”
To mark the first province-wide action of this kind since the political protest of 1997, the presidents of all four major education unions will be holding joint media availability at Queen’s Park.
Watch for more on this story.